The Lake District

Fred Yates came to the Lake District in 1901 to paint Charlotte Mason, who had founded a teaching college in Ambleside. He fell in love with the area and a year later moved first into rooms in Ambleside, then to a cottage in Rydal belonging to Squire Le Fleming.

He was then commissioned to paint a portrait of the Squire and his wife. Perhaps it was while he was painting these that the Squire talked about the need to build a house for his agent and it was agreed that, if Fred chose the site, two semi-detached cottages would be built, one for the agent and one for Fred.

Hart Head Cottage, Rydal.

Mary and Fred chose a spot in Rydal at the top of a steep hill above Hart Head Farm and Rydal Mount. The house had magnificent views across to Lake Windermere and, nestled into the flank of Nab Scar, would be protected from the worst of the winter weather. 

The Yates family moved into Hart Head Cottage in January 1907. 

It was a wonderful place to live. Fred kept his studio in Marylebone in London but came home whenever he could. London was important for Fred’s work but it also, “ ...seems to throw my Rydal life into a proper focus - I see it — I smell the wood and hear the river”

Many friends came to visit them in theirLakeland home. JH Badley, founder of Bedales co-educational school, John Drinkwater the poet, and Woodrow Wilson, later President of the United States. Always unconventional, Yates was likely to greet new acquaintances with the phrase, “We’re poor, but, thank God, not respectable.” Whatever the financial situation, friends, both famous and local, were guaranteed to find the Yates home a lively and busy place, full of music, conversation and laughter.


From notes for an the Exhibition at the Armitt Museum, Ambleside, November 2001 to February 2002. John Hodkinson, Hart Head Cottage, September, 2001.